Name of Administrator,
I'm currently reading A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman. It's an interested read, as it details the "curiosity conversations" that Grazer has scheduled weekly for the past few decades with interesting people. It also reminds me of one of the biggest concerns I hear when I've discussed eliminating curriculum with both teachers and students: students don't know what they don't know.
The concern is that if students aren't exposed to many different curricular areas they may not know that they might be passionate about one of them. Many folks report that they didn't think they'd be interested in
I think there are probably many ways to address this concern in a more open-ended learning experience like I'm suggesting, but let me share just one to give you an idea of how it could look. In my last post I suggested that one core "class" that I would keep is one built around physical fitness and health. I would also suggest a second "core" experience for all students, one built around curiosity and current events, maybe even call it "Cultivating Curiosity" or "Curiosity Conversations" or something.
Arapahoe, like many schools, has a current events class, but it is an elective, so not all students take it, and it only meets two days a week for one semester, so students only get a small slice of current events. I would propose that all students take "Cultivating Curiosity" or "Curiosity Conversations" throughout their four years at Arapahoe. With the guidance of several teachers, students would be exposed each week to what's going on in the world at a fairly shallow level, but at a deeper level than you might get by watching the evening news (think NPR/Atlantic length of story, with follow-up, as opposed to Nightly News/Denver Post length of story.) Then perhaps every two weeks or so, each student (or a small group of students) would choose one (or more) events that particularly piqued their curiosity and delve into them more deeply. They would continue to get the "shallow" current events discussion each week, so they'd still get exposed to what's going on in the world, but they would also take time to dive deeper into an issue for a couple of weeks, then dive deeper into another issue for a couple of weeks, and so on.
Then, perhaps at the end of the first semester, after they've dived deep into 6-9 topics, they might choose one of those to focus on during second semester and do a really deep dive, spending a significant amount of time learning everything they can about it, immersing themselves in the issue and perhaps delving into ways they could get involved. (Or, if nothing has really jumped out at them, they could continue doing the two-week dives on new topics.) If done well, this gives students exposure to many different areas, and in a fashion that is both timely and much more likely to be relevant to their lives that a pre-digested curriculum.
I think this has great potential, although I think we would perhaps expand the definition of "current events" a bit from the way we currently define them. We would certainly still incorporate the "hot topics" in the news, but my vision of current events would also include many areas that might not be on the front page, but are still current. Here's a (non-comprehensive) list of some current events that I think would be likely candidates if I was teaching this class this week:
- Economic Crisis in Greece (economics, politics, government, history, mathematics, geography)
- Confederate Flag and #BlackLivesMatter (history, politics, philosophy, sociology, media)
- Climate Change/Energy (science, mathematics, politics, government, history)
- Retirement Security (government, economics, mathematics, politics)
- Education Reform (government, economics, politics, science, philosophy)
- Space/Rocket Launches (science, mathematics, government, economics, sociology)
- Gender/USWNT (sports, politics, economics)
- Iran Nuclear Deal (science, politics, government, geography)
- 2016 Election (politics, government, philosophy, media)
- Driverless Cars (economics, politics, government, science)
- Mental Health (science, medicine, government)
- Marriage (sociology, politics, government, science)
I think curiosity is "core" to learning, and should be front-and-center at Arapahoe. I look forward to having this discussion with the entire staff and am "curious" to see what results.